A drought has been declared for the East of England, with temperatures set to hit sweltering highs of 34C in Norfolk this weekend.

The announcement follows a meeting of the National Drought Group, made up of government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which met on Friday to discuss the prolonged dry weather.

The drought has been declared for the most affected areas of England in the south and east, after the driest July on record for some areas and the driest first half of the year since 1976.

It will see the Environment Agency and water companies implementing more of their plans to manage the impacts of low water levels, which can include actions such as hosepipe bans.

It comes as the country is in the midst of another heatwave which could see temperatures soar to 34C in parts of Norfolk, with the west of the county expecting the highest temperatures.

Much of the county is currently under a Met Office amber weather warning for extreme heat, which extends until Sunday, August 14.

Water Minister Steve Double said action was already being taken by the government, the Environment Agency and others to manage the impacts.

“All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe, and we have made it clear it is their duty to maintain those supplies”, he said.

“We are better prepared than ever before for periods of dry weather, but we will continue to closely monitor the situation, including impacts on farmers and the environment, and take further action as needed.”